Rob Casey is the owner of SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle, co-founder for the PSUPA and is the author of two paddling guides.

Monday, January 9, 2017

SUP or Kayak Rack Hack for Getting in the back of your Car Easier

I purchased a Subaru Outback in the Spring. After I installed my Thule rack, I placed my board on the rack and tied it down. Then I opened by back hatch but noticed it only opened half way with the top real brake light pushing up agains the bottom of the board. In order to get in my car I'd have to squat down and snake my 6'-5" tall frame into the back of the car. Bummer.

Not long after, Jim Ramey, an outdoor industry rep for our region mentioned he had the same issue with his Toyota Sienna. Being an innovative type of guy with tools, he devised a hack to raise the rear rack towers allowing the rear brake light section to open just enough more to solve the problem.  

See below for his solution.. That's closed cell foam glued to the top of the wood block. 

How to Install..
- Place block on rack bar under your board or kayak (Here I have square Thule rack bars)
- Place your craft on top of the block.
- Secure your craft to the bar using straps or rope as you normally would. Pressure from the strap tie-down secures the block to the rack bar.  

Board in pictures - Bounce SUP

Thanks to Jim Ramey of Adventure Sales. Jim reps Bounce SUPs, Imagine Surf, KanuLock, Accent and Cannon Paddles, MTI Lifejackets and a few more lines. Contact Jim


Friday, January 6, 2017

How to Downwind Shilshole Bay and Stay off the Jetty

Note: This post applies to any downwind run, even if you've never hear of Shilshole Bay. 

Downwinding is super popular for SUP paddlers as well as outrigger canoe paddlers. Here in Seattle when the 20 - 40 kt wind start cranking in winter, the paddlers come out to ride the bumps made from the wind waves. Winter paddling has increased as a result of downwinding because it is surf and waves you can ride anywhere there's water and wind.

As with anything that gets popular especially in water, accidents begin to happen usually as a result of unskilled paddlers (for the conditions) getting blown offshore, into a jetty (see below) or they'll paddle past their destination. Accidents also happen as a result of new paddlers joining up with other paddlers who don't have adequate skills to keep one or both of them out of trouble. Safety in numbers doesn't work out if your buddy is as inexperienced as you. Two paddlers downwinding on Maui's north shore were rescued in November as a result of the above.

Check my posts about downwinding and downwind safety to learn how to prepare for and pick your partners for downwind surfing.

In the pics below, both show the most common ways to get into trouble on my home waters of Shilshole Bay in Seattle.  Downwinding Shilshole isn't easy. It's hard to get a good long line unless you're going from West Point to GG or north to Edmonds, or vice versa. I like to surf the inside bay doing loops on strong NE winds, using the lee (wind protected areas) of Ray's and Elks to paddle back upwind.

This is a very urban paddle so getting to the shore isn't a problem, unless it's a jetty where you'd rather avoid to prevent from banging up your board or being stranded on in case of big winds and waves.

Twice in 2 months from 2016 and 2017, local paddlers whose skill level wasn't appropriate for the conditions ended up on Shilshole jetty, one nearly destroying his board due to wave action.  Using the diagrams below, you can avoid this situation.

In this diagram, the red arrows show the flow of waves/swell generated from the Northerly winds. A NE wind wraps around Meadow Pt (Golden Gardens) and swings into the bay.  If you're coming out from the marina or from the beach at GG, paddle straight out (west) about a quarter to half mile to get in line with with the straighter direction swells headed North to South.  Even if you're not paddling (swimming or resting) these swells will bring you to Magnolia vs into the jetty.  Not going out that far will mean a lot of hard work trying to keep your nose from going into the jetty. Not fun!

NE Winds around Meadow Point on Shilshole Bay - Paddle Route in Green

Below is the diagram for a SW wind coming from West Point into Shilshole Bay and Ballard.  I heard of two groups in December that launched too close to the jetty from the Elks and got blown into the jetty due to the swift Locks current and SW winds. Instead, paddle upstream towards the Locks by Ray's, then cross at the channel at the narrow bottleneck, then paddle directly below the Magnolia bluff to the big erratic boulders below Day Break Star Center. Then begin to paddle offshore heading north to Golden Gardens.

Note a SE or SW wind can wind tunnel down the Locks speeding up current 2x. Rains will also speed up the current. Use a ferrying angle to cross (45 degree angle facing up current - look at where you want to go (prior post). Use the edges (eddies) of the channel to paddle upstream to save energy. This means directly below the pilings at Ray's etc.

Avoid the Rip - On a strong SE wind, as mentioned above, the wind will push through the Locks speeding up the outgoing current up to 2x. Add an outgoing tide (ebb) and paddlers trying to paddle up current (south) in the channel between the south end of the Shilshole Marina and the outer red buoy will find themselves in a rip. It can be so strong, even strong paddlers will struggle to paddle back to shore. Instead paddle straight towards Magnolia to get less Locks current, then cross the channel by Ray's.

SW winds and Locks current into Shilshole Bay. Paddler route in green. 
New to Wind?
SE - means wind comes from the SE. 

Most common wind directions in Seattle - SE, SW and NE.

Tip for choosing the right 'line' to your destination.  In strong winds or current, aim for a spot just before your destination in case you get blown downwind too far.  Always wear your leash. 

Downwind Posts to Check out.. 
Great post from Suzie Cooney on Maui on Downwind Safety

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - Beginning to advanced instruction including freighter and tug wave surfing, coastal surfing, rivers and racing, plus PSUPA Certification.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How to Not Paddle into Pilings, Rocks or other Paddlers

In 1985, a driver's ED teacher told me, "If you look out the window at a dog, you'll drive off the road!" She was right. Same goes with paddling. If you don't want hit that piling, wall or buddy, look where you want to go and your body will compensate.

For those that have taken our Tidal Rapids class or do river paddling, you should have learned to ferry across current. This means angling your board at approx a 45 degree angle up current, then watching your destination. If you look away from your destination (up or down stream) the current will push you away from your destination.

Paddler ferrying tidal rapids at Deception Pass near Seattle
In teaching, we've noticed couples run into each other on their first day - because they're watching each other.

And don't look at what you fear. Years ago, a whitewater kayaking buddy saw a big rock he didn't want to hit - but he locked his gaze on it, and run into it thus capsizing his boat. I've seen many nervous beginning students do the same. They'll lock their gaze on an obstruction vs looking where they want to go. We teach to look and turn away from the obstruction or worse case, stop asap (back paddling).

When performing turns such as the Cross Bow, look in the direction your paddle is going when crossing over our nose/bow. Many look straight during the turn thus limiting their flexibility and result of the turn.

In learning to surf a SUP, we may contradict the above by looking at the wave behind you as you paddle forward. This allows you to determine when to pick up speed, where to be on the wave and look for other surfers - while paddling towards the beach (using a vertical shaft). That conversation is for another future lesson.

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - Beginning to advanced instruction including freighter and tug wave surfing, coastal surfing, rivers and racing, plus PSUPA Certification.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Dress for Winter Paddling

Below are tips for what to wear when paddling in cold region areas in winter. I'm in the Pacific NW, its currently 29F out. Send in tips for what you wear for this or colder temps!

- Wetsuit - Modern wetsuits not bought from your local general sports store are actually quite dry and have less issues than more expensive drysuits. I prefer a RipCurl 5.5/4mm suit which has a fleecy interior. It looks thick but is quite flexible and comfortable. Mine is top loading which isn't fun to get into, so I wear a rash guard under for additional warmth and to help get out. Most 5/4's come with hoods. Slightly less thick would be a non fleece lined 5/4mm or an upper end 4/3. These should be seam sealed either with a hood or not, and back zip or top loading. If you have shoulder issues get a back zip. I find them as warm and dry as the top loaders. If yours doesn't have a hood buy one separately (or scull cap) or get a hooded vest to wear over or under. Try before you buy. You'll lose your no tax benefit online ordering from Oregon or elsewhere if your neck is too tight or your arms are too short.

What does 4/3 mean? 4mm thickness in legs and chest, 3mm in arms. 

- Drysuits - Drysuits are good option for cold temps as well. Personally, I prefer wetsuits as they're easier to swim in, aren't toast if you get a hole and have less maintenance (no latex gaskets). Some drysuits have neoprene gaskets making it less work to keep in shape. Kayakers tend to prefer drysuits. I did have two Kokatat Meridians in my kayaking days here in the PNW and I find I stay warmer in a good wetsuit. But I know others prefer drysuit, it's a personal thing. Drysuits do come with pee zippers (often women now wear men's versions to assist with this).  Good brands are Ocean Rodeo, Stohquist, Kokatat, NRS.  

-Making your Wetsuit Warmer - Have a 3/2 or cooler 4/3? Wear a thin polypro or SmartWool top under your suit, add a hooded vest under your suit as well (either or both). Over your suit, wear a nylon or Gortex shell or paddling jacket to cut the wind chill. Add a hood/scull cap (below). On cold days I may put a scull cap over my hooded vest hood. :)  NRS has a few nice zip up and pull-over neoprene jackets. Got a Farmer John? Get a full suit for winter. If you run hot, that's great but if you fall in you'll take longer to warm up, if at all and I don't like worrying about whether I'll fall or not.

-Booties - 7mm surfing booties are popular, but I found mine only lasted one season after the pull tab ripped out. I now use the NRS Desperado Wet Shoe (and Freestyle shoe). Both are fleece lined, waterproof and quite warm but not as thick and hard to get on as the 7mm versions. Zipper booties tend to leak but are fine in warmer seasons. I haven't found a sock-bootie combo yet that keeps me warm. On a few super cold days, I've been wearing a SmartWool sock under my bootie. Make sure to place your wetsuit legs over your bootie to reduce water seepage. The Desperado bootie has a nice thick sole with a good tread. Many surf style booties have a thin sole to 'feel the board' and every rock on the path.

-Gloves - I use Glacier Gloves which are fleece lined. The Maverick glove by NRS is good but not as warm.

-PFD/Lifejacket - Vest style will keep you warmer and overall is more safe than a c02 version which will inflated slower in cold temps. Get one with good visibility, a pocket or two and again, try it on first. Great brands are MTI, Kokatat, NRS, Stolquist, and Astral.

-Scull Caps / Hoods - I carry an extra in my PFD even with my hooded suit. I prefer one with a chin strap so it stays on when I surf or fall off the board.  Kokatat has a toasty fleece lined cap. ProMotion ( has a few nice options. Some sell a full neck/head thing but we've found those make turning your head difficult.

Read my 30 Tips for Staying Warm in Winter on SUP Magazine / Contact me for any questions or to demo rentals.

How to Choose a Wetsuit - (Stoke Mag post) - Click Here

PSUPA members get a discount at ProMotion, MTI, Astral) 

Spokane River surf wave day with the Cindric family, winter 2015. 

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

SUP Backup Gear for your Car

I run a mobile SUP business, which means I need to bring all my gear with me to the beach. Forgetting gear is a bummer, so I have a checklist for every class to make sure students get the right sized wetsuit, booties, paddles and boards for their height and weight or skill level.

Being human, I still forget items on occasion. My students may also forget gear, so I stock my car with the most commonly forgotten items.  Here they are...

-Leash string (parachute cord)
-Knife or multi-tool (for cutting leash string, fin screws, etc)
-Extra fin screws (I keep all Philip heads)
-Philips head screwdrivers and an Allen wrench set for fin screws. I carry extras so students can help.
-Cliff bars (peanut butter)
-Waterproof Pelican light for night paddling.  (clips to PFD)
-Surf wax (also used on paddle shaft on occasion and board rails)
-Warm hats - Nice for cooler days before or after classes, or while changing clothes in parking lot.
-Neoprene gloves in 2 sizes, (M and L). Most common sizes, plus I can use the L.
-Handheld VHF radio - Waterproof floating Standard Horizon on string.
-First Aid marine mini guidebook, via Mountaineers Books
-Foil tape - for ding repairs. Sticks on when wet. Can also be used as a reflector.
-First aid stuff - band aids, pain relievers, my migraine meds, sam splint, etc.
-Binoculars - used for surf search or freighter wave spotting
-Paddling Washington - All rivers and lakes in WA State, via Mountaineers Books
-WA State fishing regs
-Chemical heat packets
-Click-in fin that can also be screwed in (not all fins fit in all fin boxes)
-Leash (most forgotten item)
-Neoprene clothing - paddling pants, top, extra rash guard, scull cap, hooded vest.
-Rain shell or puffy down coat to put on after classes or while changing in winter.
-Old camping pad piece to stand on when changing in parking lots.  Nice insulation underfoot.
-My books - SUP book and Kayaking Puget Sound to promote to students on on the road. Even I use my Puget Sound guidebook for reference!

For tours, classes and casual paddles, I carry an extra adjustable paddle and vest lifejacket. Both regularly forgotten by students.

Sounds like a lot?  All of the items are in the pic below and are placed under my Subaru Outback rear compartment. The clothing goes in a small plastic bin in the trunk area.

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Downwind Surfing Article from Suzie Cooney

Here's a great very informative blog post from Maui's Suzie Cooney.  I added my 2 cents in comments by adding a few more much needed items.

It’s been an amazing downwind Maliko run pre-winter season this past October through November here on Maui; with stronger than usual trades consistently pushing through, coupled with massive surf and wind swells. With conditions like these everyone who enjoys OC-1. OC-2, OC-6, prone, surfski and SUP, safety for downwind paddling on the Maliko Run has been on the top of everyone’s mind.
Maliko Run Ocean Safety Checklist
This blog post is intended to provide helpful suggestions on what to carry with you on the really big and small days on Maliko. I will also share a couple of very intense, true stories and lessons learned that just could save your life or someone else you know who loves to downwind paddle.

Click here to read the full post!

Contact Suzie Cooney on Maui for her fitness and downwind training.

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our 
SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

SUP Review - Imagine Surf 14' Connector (Inflatable) DLX

Tomorrow I'm selling the last of my 2016 Imagine Surf 14' Connector Inflatables. I'll be sorry to see the board go as I had a hoot on it during the past season or so.  Here's my 2 cents on the board..

I'm a fan of long fast boards. For an inflatable, this board is fast. Friends who race regularly have borrowed it and have either stayed with or passed other paddlers on 14' carbon boards.  Designed as the sister downwinder board of the Connector CC (carbon), I've found this board does well for flat and rough water racing, touring, downwind, and light surfing.

Imagine Surf 14' Connector (Inflatable) DLX
Product Link  Dimensions: 14’ x 30 x 6” 356 LTR

Blown up to 15psi, the board is rock solid with minimal flex. The valve is on the tail and stops automatically at full psi.  I use the tail handle to attach my leash to, but the board also has a D-ring for leash attachment as well.  The diamond plate deck pad is great for traction.  The board comes with a double action pump, extra break down paddle, quick release plastic fin and repair kit.  The board is very light, I can lift it up with one hand with no problem. Imagine's LTE series is even lighter but not available for this model.

For us big guys, the board is a bit nimble. Advanced big guy/gal paddlers will get used to it.  I think the board is best for small to tall (5'-9") paddlers, but not super tall (I'm 6'-5") or larger paddlers over 240lbs.

Fin Box..
The board has a regular long board style fin box where you can add any fin you want. It comes with a plastic quick release fin that is great for easy in/out. But I usually use a ProTeck Superflex rubber fin with a QFR quick release as I find myself in a lot of shallow water situations.  Sometimes I throw in a Larry Allison Ninja fin for tug surfing which requires stability on steep faces with long glides.

Surfing -
I've surfed it in up to 5' waves and got long glides. Like any long board, it won't rip but you will catch long glides with some maneuverability if standing on the tail.  The slightly raised nose rocker helps with surfing down wave faces. Like any 6" inflatable it doesn't have performance rails but any good surfer will make do.

Downwinding -
What it's made for, the board catches glides easily and has great acceleration.

Touring -
The board has 4 loops on the deck for attaching tie-downs. I use kayaking style deck bags to hold gear (or instruction first aid and rescue gear for lessons).  The board's speed would be great for long trips. At the campsite, the lightweight board would be easy to carry above the waterline, even with gear. I've found the exterior is pretty stout and haven't had any leaks in dealing with barnacles and rocky beaches.

Rivers -
Shane Donogh of Experience SUP in Duvall, WA has been using the board in Class 1 to Class 2 rivers and exploring backwaters, oxbows and small streams. I've taught a few classes on the board in tidal rapids near Seattle and have been impressed.  See pics of Shane on his Connector below.

Racing -
Unlike the 2015 version the nose rocker is lower thus with a longer waterline the board is pretty fast. I raced it a few times last summer and one of our local paddlers races it exclusively and comes in in the faster pack at larger races.

Shane exploring the backwaters of WA State

Shane exploring the backwaters of WA State

Bag Accessories - Extra paddle, pump, repair kit and quick release fin

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - Beginning to advanced instruction including freighter and tug wave surfing, coastal surfing, rivers and racing, plus PSUPA Certification.